Savarino Companies

Savarino Revises $18M Ohio Street Project

Business First


A revamped development plan for the historic Erie Freight House warehouse that sits on the edge of the Buffalo River has been delivered to city planners.

The Ohio Street building's owner, 441 Ohio Street LLC, has filed a proposal with the Buffalo Planning Board to offers a five-story, 78-apartment building that may use portions of the circa-1868 warehouse on its grounds. The Planning Board is expected to begin its review of the $18 million, 125,000-square-foot planned building on July 2. Plans will also be submitted to the Buffalo Preservation Board for review later this summer, with construction likely to start later this year - pending all the municipal reviews.


The revised plan, done in tandem with the 441 Ohio Street project partners along with Preservation Buffalo Niagara, Buffalo River Keeper and KTA Preservation Specialties, now calls for the building to be constructed 25 feet back from the Buffalo River's water edge instead of directly on the warehouse footprint. While what's left of the rapidly decaying warehouse will likely be razed, its brick foundation will remain and be visible from the water's edge.


"Anything else we can save, we will," said Sam Savarino, president of Savarino Cos. "We have gone out of our way to be inclusive with this."

Savarino Cos. is handling the project for 441 Ohio Street LLC's investment partners, FFZ Holdings LLC. FFZ and Savarino are working together on the historic restoration and redevelopment of the 500 Seneca Street building and will be doing the same for the Cargill Pool Grain Elevator that FFZ bought at auction two weeks ago.

Working closely with Preservation Buffalo Niagara and the Buffalo River Keepers turned the project from a potential community conflict concerning the fate of the Erie Freight House property into a significant development milestone.


"I believe that this process will serve as a model for the preservation and development of historic sites across our region," said Tom Yots, Preservation Buffalo Niagara Executive Director.

Because of its long-vacant history, Savarino said he doubts much of the original building can be saved. Two years ago, the City of Buffalo cited the building's former owner, Great Lakes Paper Fibers, for 15 building and fire code violations after a portion of the structure collapsed.

"Maybe one-eighth of the original trusses can be saved. Maybe," Savarino said. "In the end, there's just not a lot that can be saved."

The original plans called for 48 market-rate apartments, mostly two-bedroom units to be developed.  Most of the apartments would have faced the Buffalo River.

Revised plans call for 72 apartments, with the bulk - approximately 62  -  being more affordable one-bedroom units and, only 16 two-bedroom units. The one-bedroom units will average 900-square-feet while the two-bedroom apartments will be in the 1,800-square-foot range.

The Buffalo firm of Chaintreul Jensen Stark designed the building.

More apartments will face towards Ohio Street, which itself will begin an $11 million transformation into a parkway connecting downtown Buffalo with the Outer Harbor land this


"We are not turning our back on Ohio Street," Savarino said.

The property will be neighbored by the Buffalo Rod & Gun Club and a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation park.

A small portion of the building's first floor may be used for commercial tenants. Indoor parking is also on the first floor.

Tenants will have access to a still-to-be determined number of boat slips. With the 25-foot setback, building tenants will also have a boardwalk along the river's edge.


Savarino said if construction begins later this year, the building could be tenant-ready by late 2014.

James Fink



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